Sylvie heard voices in the hall.  She panicked.  Had she forgotten a scheduled appointment or maybe a meeting?  She’d been flustered by the wedding.  Could she have neglected to write something down on the calendar?  Oh shit!  Connor would be pissed if she had.  It would be the perfect excuse he needed to paddle her ass again.  She could barely sit as it was.  In the week or so since they’d returned from the wedding he’d taken her in hand, as he called it, four times.  Blistering her bottom each time!  The man had an uncontrollable ass-beating fetish!

Connor had decided that her sister and sisters-in-law were a bad influence on Sylvie.  They were, according to him, bossy and belligerent.  Too much swearing!  Too much sass!  And way too much attitude!  He had no intention of tolerating such behavior from her; and he was imparting that lesson by scalding her rump every time she got out of line.  It was his opinion that her married brothers and Sean were wusses and wimps.  That they allowed themselves to be pussy-whipped by their women.  He warned her that he had no intention of letting that happen in his house.  Good luck with that!  She’d like to see him tell her brothers that to their faces!  They’d kick his ass so fast it would make his head spin!

Sylvie quickly clicked the calendar icon.  Thankfully there was nothing on the agenda for today.  Her ass was safe for now!

She wondered what was going on.  No one in their right mind would ever dare interrupt Connor’s workday unless they’d been granted an audience; and those were hard to come by, especially when he was in the middle of finishing a book.  It was probably easier to get an appointment to see the Queen of England!  Anyone wanting to meet with him had to book a week or two in advance.  People didn’t just drop in on Connor Hudson.  Not if they valued their lives!  Knocking on the door and showing up uninvited was a good way to get your head and balls ripped off before your ass was unceremoniously kicked out the door!  Connor wasn’t to be disturbed under any circumstances while working.  Not unless prior arrangements had been made.  Visitors were not welcome!  Even rich business cronies, socialites and society matrons, celebrities, and wealthy captains of industry were denied entry.  Security intercepted them the minute they set foot on the property and would call either Mrs. Cosgrove or her to find out if they were expected.  If they weren’t, security would escort them off the grounds.  Some huffed and harrumphed and were quite indignant.  After all, they were rich and not used to being turned away.  Feelings were hurt and grudges were held, but Connor didn’t give a rat’s ass.  He was a recluse.  He didn’t want to be bothered!  The only people with the audacity to bust in and interrupt him while he was working were his old high school chums.  They’d gotten back from their Mediterranean cruise a week and a half before the wedding.  In fact, Nathan had thrown a big party at his beachfront Hampton estate the same day her Dad got married.  His friends had badgered Connor to come down for the shindig, but he’d opted to accompany her to Wyoming instead.  He might be a pain in the ass most of the time, but every once in a while he did have a stellar moment!

The voices became muffled and seemed to be retreating down the hall.  Must be heading to the conference room she thought.  Then she heard a door close.  She waited for the intercom to click on.  If the conversation concerned a project or one of his businesses, he’d call her in to take notes and act as a witness to whatever was transpiring.  But if it was a business meeting, why hadn’t he told her to put it on his calendar?  That was very unlike him.

When fifteen minutes passed, she decided the conversation must be of a personal nature and that’s why she hadn’t been summoned.  Something didn’t feel right.  Sylvie hadn’t recognized the voices.  They sounded gruff and commanding, not like the boisterous bickering and loud, raucous laughter that went on when his friends were around.  Sylvie got up and peered into the hallway.  It was empty.  Unable to contain her curiosity, she hurried down the hall toward the kitchen.  Maybe Mrs. Cosgrove knew who the unexpected visitors were.

When Sylvie passed the front window she stopped short.  ‘What the hell!’ she said under her breath.  It wasn’t his friends’ sports cars parked in the driveway; it was two County Sheriff’s Department cruisers and a New York State Trooper SUV.  She looked up when she heard footsteps coming toward her.  ‘What’s going on?’ she asked.  Mrs. Cosgrove looked upset.

‘I have no idea,’ the woman responded, shaking her head and looking at the police vehicles.  ‘But whatever it is, it must be bad.  Brady got a call and left the house in a hurry, thoroughly rattled.  And that man doesn’t rattle easily!  The next thing I know he and Stipes are walking all these policemen into the house.  They must have gotten Mr. Hudson’s permission to bring them in because the man himself met them at the front door.  Do you have any idea what this is about?’

‘Not a clue!’

‘Well, it must be serious.  Why else would they have sent so many cops?  One of them is the Franklin County Sheriff and the other three are his deputies.  They came in two cars and each had two other men with them.  But I’m about as sure as I can be that those other men aren’t local.  One of them is wearing a heavy gold chain around his neck and a matching bracelet.  But they’re carrying guns, so they’ve got to be police officers.  Right?  And the man that got out of Chevy Tahoe with the State Trooper insignia on the door, he ain’t from here either.  I know most of the troopers from Troop B in Ray Brook.  He’s not one of them.’

Sylvie frowned.  ‘You know on TV, when cops are investigating a case and they have to question people in another jurisdiction, they always take a local cop with them.  But you’re saying there are five of them.  Must be something really big!  I wonder where they’re from.  It’s hard to believe they’d send that many cops up here just to talk to Mr. Hudson about a measly robbery, accident, embezzlement, or a suspicious fire.’

‘What does that leave?’  Mrs. Cosgrove asked in alarm.

‘I don’t know,’ Sylvie hemmed, not wanting to upset her further.  ‘Maybe they found a dead body in one of the properties he owns.  In an office or factory.  At one of the clubs, restaurants, or hotels.  Or possibly in one of the high-rises.’

Mrs. Cosgrove thought it over for a minute.  She shook her head.  No, that wasn’t it.  ‘They wouldn’t send a posse of police up her for a single dead person.  Besides, what would Mr. Hudson know about anything like that?  He seldom ever sets foot off the property.  Wait!  I know!  They’re part of a task force investigating something.  Maybe there’s a drug cartel trying to infiltrate one of the nightclubs.  Or,’ she said excitedly, ‘One of our employees could be part of a terrorist cell!’

Sylvie looked skeptical.  Mrs. Cosgrove was obviously letting her imagination get the better of her.  There was probably a very simple explanation for all this.

As they stared out at the police vehicles, two of the security staff, Del Morrow and Thad Johansson, appeared; and after talking to one of the sheriff’s men, took up posts on either side of the front door.

‘Oh my God!’ Mrs. Cosgrove blurted out nervously.  ‘Do you suppose someone has threatened Mr. Hudson?’

The intercom clicked on interrupting the conversation.  ‘Mrs. Cosgrove, is Sylvie with you?’

Before the woman could answer, Sylvie responded, ‘Yes sir.  I’m here.’

‘I need you in the conference room ASAP!’ he ordered.

‘On my way!’  Her eyes were wide with concern when she turned from Mrs. Cosgrove and hurried back down the hall.


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